How To Build Sauna Benches

While every component of a Sauna contributes to it’s overall functionality, nothing adds to the experience as much as a Sauna bench does. Sauna benches allow the Sauna bathers to sit higher up in the sauna room itself, experiencing the full heat and steam generated by the Sauna heater.

Photo shows a custom built Sauna bench built by Sauna Supply Co

The Complete Guide To Building Your Own Sauna Benches

There are a number of factors that go into building your own Sauna benches. From the wood you’ll use to build them, sourcing the wood, determining height, what depth they should be at, and securing the benches to the wall are all critical factors that will ensure your Sauna benches last for years to come.

Of course, should you decide not to build your own Sauna benches, you can always give us a call for a quote on custom sauna benches. We can build your Sauna benches to virtually any size or design.

These Are The Basic Steps to Building Sauna Benches

Let’s make one thing clear. A sauna bench isn’t simply a rectangle piece of wood you’ll attach to the Sauna walls to sit on. A bench is a major focal point of your Sauna and one of the most customizable components of the Sauna room itself. Adding features such as backrest lighting, or under bench lighting add a highly unique aesthetic to the Sauna room. From choosing the materials, to standard bench sizing and sauna bench ideas we hope this comprehensive guide aids you in building your own benches.

Should you decide to have us build them for you, do not hesitate to contact us or give us a call at (612)505-9700 for a quote!

  1. Choose your sauna bench materials
  2. Picking a sauna bench shape
  3. Determine sauna bench height
  4. Select sauna bench width
  5. Choose sauna bench depth
  6. How many sauna benches will I need?
  7. Add lighting to your sauna benches
  8. Will your faces be open or closed?

Recommended Sauna Bench Building Materials

The most important consideration in building a Sauna bench is the type of material you’ll use to build them. Because sauna benches are the touch point in a Sauna with the most use, they should be built using materials that are capable of withstanding the excessive moisture they’ll face.

The most common wood types for building Saunas are Nordic Spruce, Black Taika, Aspen, Hemlock, Cedar, Abachi, and Alder. For the Sauna benches we sell, we typically model our benches with a similar or complementing wood type used in the actual interior of the room. While you can choose whichever material you like, choosing the material you’re using in your interior construction can be a cost saving measure that enables you to buy in bulk and repurpose leftover material for benches.

Nordic Spruce Sauna Benches

If you are building a sauna out of Nordic Spruce, it’s typically not recommended that you use Nordic Spruce itself for the benching material. In fact, in our custom saunas that are built using Nordic Spruce, we build benches out of Abachi or Aspen.

The main reason we do not build our benches of Nordic Spruce itself is because the wood features small, tight, living knots. Our Abachi or Aspen bench material allows us to get a clear wood type that is completely knot free. This is critically important as knots inside the sauna room tend to become very hot and direct skin contact with these knots could leave a burn.

The photo below shows one of our outdoor saunas that features Nordic Spruce and Abachi Benching and Backrests.

Aspen Sauna Benches

Our sauna benches in all of the DIY sauna kits we sell with the Nordic Spruce wood type are built of either Aspen or Abachi. Between the two wood types, we prefer to use Abachi and only use Aspen when the Abachi wood type is not available. This depends on the season, but most frequently, Abachi is used.

The difference between Aspen and Abachi is virtually invisible to the naked eye and the two wood types can even be used together.

Abachi Sauna Benches

Abachi is the preferred wood type for building sauna benches in a sauna that will be lighter in color. It pairs very well with our Nordic Spruce, looking nearly identical in color, without knots in the bench material.

If you’re building your own benches and would like to source the Abachi bench material we use, please give us a call.

The photo below shows our Abachi Sauna benches in a Nordic Spruce outdoor sauna we recently built.

Hemlock Sauna Benches

Clear Canadian Hemlock is an excellent material for building Sauna benches. We use Hemlock in many of the Sauna kits we sell, as well as our custom cut Saunas.

One of the advantages to using Hemlock in your sauna build is that you can easily use Hemlock for the bench material as well. This creates a seamless, modern sauna design that will look and perform the best day in and day out for decades to come.

Cedar Sauna Benches

Cedar adds a unique smell to the Sauna room and building benches for your Sauna out of Cedar is a great idea. We recommend building Cedar Sauna benches out of 5/4 Cedar planks (we have them in stock, call for pricing) to add strength. As with any material that you choose for building your bench, the edges of the bench itself should be routered to comfort.

Is your room built of Cedar, but you’d like a different bench material? Because Cedar is a relatively neutral color, benches of both lighter or darker material pair well with a Cedar tongue and groove Sauna.

Ideal Shapes for Sauna Benches

If you can, building Sauna benches in an “L” shaped bench style provides ample room for the sauna user to lie down. In many sized saunas, building an L shaped bench simply is not possible. If this is the case, try to ensure your top bench is at least 24″ wide.

Building your benches in an L shape requires a little bit of pre-planning as the longest bench should support the shorter bench. This means bolting the two benches together, or adding bench supports under each of the two benches.

If your sauna is custom built permanently into the walls, any bench less than 7′ long shouldn’t need additional supports under it.

Standard Sauna Bench Heights

This is arguably the most important decision you’ll make when building and attaching your Sauna benches to the room itself. While bench width is determined by the size of the Sauna, the height is largely up to the builder. With the proper height selection in which you’ll attach your benches, you’ll be able to maximize the heat effects and benefits of your Sauna. Standard sauna height is 7′ tall, with benches allowing the users head to comfortably sit in the 160° to 190° heat range near the top of the Sauna ceiling.

Traditional saunas almost always feature two benches. The purpose of two benches is to allow the user to rest their feet comfortably, without having them touch the floor.

Standard top bench height for Sauna: 35″ from floor

Standard lower bench height for Sauna: 17″ from floor

For the majority of people 5’6″ to 6’2″ tall, the 18″ distance from top bench to bottom bench is adequate to comfortably sit with feet resting on the top bench. If you’re beyond 6’2″ and the majority of people using your Sauna room are as well, measure the distance from your knee cap to the bottom of your feet while sitting to determine distance between top and bottom bench.

Before you decide to increase the gap between top and bottom bench, consider the fact that you will not always sit with your knees bent at a perfect 90° angle. One way to increase the comfort with a standard 18″ distance between both benches is to increase the width of your bottom bench, allowing yourself to stretch your legs out further.

What should I do if my Sauna ceiling is too tall?

If your Sauna features a ceiling height of 8′ or more, one way to allow users to experience the full heat a Sauna has to offer is by adding a third tier or a floating floor. Depending on space, a 3rd bench may not be an option. If this is the case and you have not started to build your Sauna, consider lowering the ceiling height of your room. If this is not an option, a raised false floor will help you bring the bench height up.

Photo shows different heat zones in a Sauna in regards to determining proper Sauna bench height

What Width Should My Sauna Benches Be?

Width of the sauna bench is largely up to the user, especially if you’re building them yourself.

To maximize space inside the sauna room, we always design our sauna benches to be as wide as possible. You can pre calculate this number if you know your stud to stud measurement, minus the thickness of your tongue and groove material on each wall.

You should always leave 1/8″ extra to allow your sauna bench to slide into position once the tongue and groove material is on the walls of the sauna. For that reason, it’s also convenient to wait until all interior tongue and groove sauna wood is mounted on the walls prior to taking your measurement.

If you are submitting measurements for your custom cut sauna room, we recommend measuring bench width at the actual point of mounting, for most cases, 35″ high on the top bench. This way, if there is any bowing in the walls, it will be accounted for once your custom sauna kit is shipped.

Standard Sauna Bench Depths

The most common depth for the top bench of a sauna is 24″. We also build our benches at a 20″ depth, or even a 16″ depth. We do not recommend a 16″ depth top bench, but rather for creating more space to move about the sauna by using your 16″ deep bench as your bottom bench.

24″ deep sauna bench vs 20″ deep sauna bench

A 24″ deep sauna bench seems larger than necessary on paper, however, it’s the most common depth for a top bench to create additional space should you choose to lie down. One thing that many folks building a sauna do not consider when designing the depth of their sauna benches is the backrest that will be behind the top bench. This backrest will reduce sitting space on the top bench by 1″ to 1.5″ depending on the thickness of the backrest material you use to build.

A 20″ sauna bench may seem more comfortable for sitting with perfect posture, but in all reality the deeper you can afford to go on your top bench while still being able to sit with your legs bent at a 90° angle, the better. You may not think you’d ever consider laying down in a sauna but it’s better to have the option to do so comfortably than to have to re-build your benches later.

Other Considerations For Building Your Own Sauna Benches

There are a number of other things to consider when coming up with ideas and designs for your own Sauna benches. So much so, in fact, that we’ve got an entire area of our site dedicated to Sauna Bench Designs.

Designing Sauna Benches

When it comes to sauna bench design, function often takes precedence over design for many DIY sauna bench builders. While it’s certainly easier to square up a few leftover pieces of scrap material used in your build, this doesn’t have to be the case! A little thought into the design goes a long way in significantly enhancing the look of your sauna.

We see far to many saunas that feature basic benches, seemingly an after thought to the entire build. Take some time to put some thought into the overall design and you’ll have a sauna room that you feel confident showing off to even the most critical of builders.

Placement of Sauna Bench from the Sauna Heater

Determining how far from the Sauna heater your Sauna bench should be is a critical factor in bench design. Too far, you’re missing out on the best heat a Sauna has to offer. Too close, you run the risk of burning yourself or others with the quick steam release generated from putting water on your Sauna heater.

Sauna benches should be 24″ or more from the heat source in the Sauna room. If your room has a wood fired sauna stove, we recommend a further distance of 36″ or more. Benches should be designed in such a way that the risk of falling or stepping on the stove is greatly reduced.

Of course, in some saunas, it simply is not possible to have 2 feet of clearance from the sauna heater. If this is the case, we recommend a heater guard on your sauna stove. On every sauna we install, these come standard, but in many home built DIY saunas they are not. A heater guard may not seem important to you, but for kids utilizing the sauna it’s an extra level of protection.

L Shaped Benches

L shaped Sauna benches maximize space inside the Sauna, giving space for more people as well as offering the Sauna bather the opportunity to lay down with more space. Any time L shaped Sauna benches can be incorporated into your Sauna build, we recommend it.

Sit Or Stand?

Benches should be placed as close to the ceiling height as possible, while allowing even the tallest of Sauna bathers the ability to comfortably sit with perfect posture. Ideally, 8-10″ of space above the tallest persons head should remain between the ceiling while sitting on the top sauna bench. While we typically don’t recommend building benches so that users can stand up, there are cases in certain sized commercial rooms where with the addition of a 3rd tier, you’ll be able to stand in the Sauna while on a bench.

Laying Down

Building your benches in such a way that you can comfortable lie down while enjoying your Sauna is a major benefit to building a larger Sauna room. While you’ll have to include a higher power Sauna heater (see our Commercial sized Sauna Heaters) to effectively heat the room to it’s maximum potential, the ability to lay down on your Sauna bench is an added improvement to any Sauna room.

If you enjoy laying down in your sauna, we recommend building your top bench at a depth of 24″. This is the most economical, it still allows sauna bathers to sit down with proper posture comfortably, and will allow you to lay down if you so choose.


Let The Sauna Experts Help You Build Your Dream Sauna.

While our customer experience cannot possibly match the feeling of relaxation you get from taking Sauna (nothing can), it’s on par with it. We’d love to share our passion and experience of Sauna with you.

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